Archive for May, 2012

Last week I was interviewed by Rita Sirignano for an article on Mothers Day, which will appear in Swerve on Friday, May 11.  Her original intent was to feature me, a member of Calgary Raging Grannies, in a side-bar to show that not all grandmothers fit the stereotype.  However, a few days after the interview she told me I would be part of the main article, not a sidebar.  I am curious to know what she will write.  We had a great talk about grandmothers, and when I learned she still has a teenaged son living with her, I wondered if she was reluctant to claim an older label when she is still actively parenting.  Rita is close to my daughter’s age, so I shared  my daughter’s thoughts on being a grandmother.  It was easy to just press the email button on my iPad and send her the notes.  Rita and I enjoyed our talk, but now I wish I had shared other thoughts.  While I agree with my daughter about what she said, from my 75-year-old perspective, I have a societal view of grandparenting.  I’m sure that grandfathers react the same way that I have.  At this stage in life, I doubt that gender differences matter.

What else I could have said to Rita:

The connection between grandparent and child is so primal it must be part of our hard-wiring as a species. In 1986 I was totally unprepared for the joy and automatic outpouring of love that I felt when my son-in-law phoned  to say that my oldest grand-son Riley was born. I took time off work and drove 11 hours to visit them, and to be there when my daughter came home from the hospital.
Since then I have 2 more grand-sons, and my step-granddaughter has 3 children whom I regard as great-grand children.
If the connection between grandparent and grandchild is so primal it must be to ensure the survival of the species. What does the grandparent provide that the parents don’t? Definitely more love. Support for the parents when they can’t do it all. Extra time and attention for the child. Another set of eyes to watch wandering steps. Another pair of hands to pick them up, change their wet clothes, dress them, care for them when they fall. The grandparents don’t replace the parents at all … Far from it. Hopefully they fill in the gaps.
The line between grandchild and grandparent is like the vertical threads in the fabric of life – the fabric of our society. The horizontal threads are present time parents and situations, adding color, variety, pattern and picture. The vertical fibres hold the people in place. They lend structure and support, keeping everyone together. We learn who we are by interacting with our world. Interacting with older generations affirms who we are at a cultural level, helping to form our identity. When we know we are connected by blood we are more secure in our knowledge of who we are. That may be why children who are adopted feel a need to find their birth parents. It could be that at an unconscious level they do not feel part of the lineage of their adoptive family. A sense of difference may pervade the adoptee.

Wait a minute.  That may not be true at all, for many people feel disconnected from their blood relatives. When I was ten years old, my sister told me that I was adopted.. I believed her, for hadn’t I always felt different and alone? Perhaps identity is only a part of the search for meaning as we grow and ask the eternal questions: “Who am I? Why am I here? what does my life mean?”

For  grandparents, those questions disappear when the grandchildren enter our doorways.  These blessed little people fill our hearts and our souls and we know who we are.  We are the way-showers.  We are the connectors.  We are their adoring fans.  We are part of the ever-widening circle of life.  Thank you, Riley, Jesse, Faellen, Ben, Dillan, Justin, and Ashlyn.  With you, I am whole.


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